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How Beethoven and Yoko Ono Inspired the Beatles’ ‘Because’

How Beethoven and Yoko Ono Inspired the Beatles’ ‘Because’

How Beethoven and Yoko Ono Inspired the Beatles’ ‘Because’
December 01
10:46 2019

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most acclaimed musicians of all time. Yoko Ono is a touch less acclaimed. Despite the difference in perception of the two musicians, they both inspired one of the most intriguing Beatles compositions: “Because.”

The Beatles created a song by listening to Beethoven backwards

Like many Beatles records, “Because” is is a bridge between the new and the old. The track’s appeal to contemporary audiences was rooted in its Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies and psychedelic lyrics. To appeal to an older generation, the song has a stiff, almost mathematical chord progression which recalls classical music.

The classical elements of “Because” were intentional. Snopes quotes John Lennon explaining the song’s origins: “[Yoko] trained as a classical musician. I didn’t know that until this morning. In college she majored in classical composition. Now we stimulate each other like crazy. This morning I wrote this song called ‘Because.’ Yoko was playing some classical bit, and I said ‘Play that backwards,’ and we had a tune.”

In separate interviews, John said the “classical bit” in question was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, one of the most iconic pieces by the renowned composer. Snopes says “Because” isn’t simply the Moonlight Sonata backwards, but it’s quite similar. “Because” was one of several examples of the Beatles experimenting with backwards music.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in bed as part of a protest | Bettmann/ Contributor

What does ‘Because’ mean?

Like the Moonlight Sonata, “Because” features an air of mystery which makes listeners want to return to it again and again. Shockingly, John felt “Because” was fairly straightforward. Discussing its lyrics, he said “The lyrics speak for themselves … No imagery, no obscure references.”

The irony of the Beatles and classical music

There is a grand irony behind the story of “Because.” The Beatles’ sophomore album With the Beatles included a cover of the classic Chuck Berry rocker “Roll Over Beethoven.” The lyrics of the song portray rock and roll as heralding the death of classical music, with the Fab Four singing “Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news.”

John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969 | Keystone Features/Getty Images

The Beatles initially felt they were the death knell of classical music. However, they would help to introduce the genre to the Baby Boomer generation. Songs like “Because,” “Piggies,” and “Eleanor Rigby” took inspiration from classical composers.

The Beatles also brought classical music to the big screen in the 2010s through the use of “Because.” According to Ultimate Classic Rock, “Because” was used in advertisements for the epic science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Cinema Blend says the Valerian TV spots marked the first time a master recording of a Beatles song was used in a trailer for a film. Paul McCartney approved of its use because he thought the film sounded interesting.

The Beatles have the most storied history of any band. If there’s one thing their catalogue proves, it’s that musicians can find inspiration anywhere. John was even able to take inspiration from an artist he told to “roll over.”

Source: How Beethoven and Yoko Ono Inspired the Beatles’ ‘Because’

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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